Color Fusion: The Blending of Color Philosophies
January 2nd, 2009

First Quarter, 2009

By Barbara Schirmeister, ASID, CAUS, DC

Color dichotomy” best describes the color forecast for 2009-2010 for residential and commercial interiors from the Color Association of the United States (CAUS), a forecast of color trends used by manufacturers of environmental and interior products. The palette exhibits both contrast and contradiction, reflecting uncertain and chaotic circumstances as we approach a new decade of the 21st century.

In searching for meaning and order, we are looking for a new attitude—a new design aesthetic. A desire to break away from the norm has helped to create new color solutions for today’s co-existing philosophies:

Classic versus Contemporary;

Moderation versus Excess;

Energetic versus Relaxed;

Reality versus Fantasy;

Urban versus Rural;

Playful versus Serious;

Sensationalism versus Rationalism; and

Exotic versus Simple.

Individualism reigns and is responsible for the diverse emergence of mini trends, seen at all of the leading international trade shows and fashion runways. These mini trends incorporate all eras and cultures, and strive to introduce visionary, futuristic concepts.

The Palette

The palette for 2009-2010 has the following characteristics:

A fresh, balanced approach fusing warm and cool hues;

The complex neutrals are more saturated and refined;

Brights are more confident;

Technology coexists with romance;

Reflections of an entrepreneurial spirit;

A redefinition of luxury.

Urban Neutrals

Urban neutrals are the core and dominate the palette. They are pivotal swing colors that become a springboard for interesting new accent hues. These neutrals consist of:

No-colors—a bit off kilter and moody, such as sepias, taupes, tobaccos, bronzes and off-browns;

Whites—a strong story that speaks of purity, luxury, the ethereal and a new start; it acts as a stage set for beautiful color combos.

Gray—Definitely the new leading family. We see “techie” grays alongside of elegant taupes, metallic silvers and graphites.

These neutrals are the perfect vehicle for understated elegance in classical environments or contemporary spaces. These more somber hues are the perfect foil for bright spurts of color, or they work beautifully together in more monolithic schemes, playing off one another. The layering of neutrals in varying textures and lusters utilize a play of light as an essential part of the scheme.

Graphic Brights

These vibrant, energetic colors are represented with new neons, acid and fluorescent brights, electric primaries, and the bold contrast of black and white. They can be characterized as:

Somewhat eccentric or bizarre;

Retro—Flashback (as in time-travel), Edwardian, 80s Pop Art, Steampunk and Art Deco;

Surreal—a rebellion of sameness and corporate culture;

“Techie”—Electronic media used in patterns, textures and grids, micro-mesh, 3-D, and precise laser techniques;

Preppy—Mid-tone brights;

Olympic fever and Asian influences.

This segment of the palette will be used to punch up the urban neutrals and the black and white story.


The most current driving influence on color and design is sustainability and ecological concerns. There is a great deal of confusion as to what is truly green. Honesty has become a driving force, fostering a new purism and neo-nature movement. In addition, honesty in production is value-added—recycling, neoadaptation, eco-friendly, transformation. This family of color echoes the “organic-chic” of fashion: pre-washed hues, organic dyes, tender colorations inspired by nature. These colors are familiar and comforting. They include:

Cheerful, sunlit golds and yellows;

New botanical greens as fresh grasses and new leaves, celadons, clean tropicals and jades;

Reds are important—from terracottas and pinks to crimson;

Orange becomes coral, copper and cantaloupe;

In place of pastels, there will be expanded tinted whites;

The blues promise to be escalating. They represent wellness, sky, water, dependability and faithfulness. We will have blue in all its glory: Sky blue, periwinkle, cobalt, cornflower, royal, nautical, lavender blue and a plethora of spa-influenced blues. Purpled blues and blued-greens shift into a new range of teals and aquas. The blue palette will play off of the urban neutrals and metallic segments of the palette.

Luster and Shimmer

It seemed that sparkle and shine had peaked, but it has resurfaced with a vengeance. Everywhere, adorning all products, there can be found glitz, dazzle and shimmer—from flaunt-it-shine to subtle sheen. Luster is being used to add life to deep shades; woven and embossed effects are threaded with shimmer; crystals are imbedded in textiles; and fiber optics is escalating.

There is a fascination with the mystery of light and shadow and with the illusion of smoke and mirrors. This contemporary fantasy embraces glamour in all forms and applauds over the top drama in design.

Metallics are a major influence in reflective color: tarnished, burnished, polished or brushed, they add to the neutral palette. Choose from an array of silvers, coppers, bronzes or precious metals. They are indeed a palette in themselves.

Finally, there will be an emphasis on imagination, fostering experimentation and risk-taking. This will result in adventuresome mixes of unusual color combinations. A fickle marketplace generates a faster turnover for trends. Consequently, we see less longevity for color popularity and a more radical shift in our upcoming forecast palette.


Internationally renowned color expert Barbara Schirmeister, ASID, has been a longtime member of the Color Association of the United States (CAUS) Interiors Committee, helping to formulate the annual Environmental/Interiors Forecast palette. She has served for many years as color consultant to a number of major companies, including Crossville, Inc.; American Standard; Unisys; Motorola; Pantone; Eastman Kodak and Hunter Douglas, among others.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Foster and Clark Real Estate
CTDA - Online Education
CTDA - Membership